Month by Month in the Lowcountry Rose Garden

This month by month guide is geared to growing roses in our mild climate and sandy soils.

The coastal plain of South Carolina is in USDA Climate Zone 8. This area has mild winters, with low temperatures seldom dropping below 20. Annual rainfall averages 45 to 55 inches.

January – February

Roses need watering in winter too. Water roses in pots or in the ground whenever the ground feels dry just below the surface to protect them from cold damage.

  • January is a good time to apply a light feeding of 0-20-20 to promote root growth.
  • Spray roses with dormant oil, fungicide and pesticide to prevent diseases and kill insect eggs. Some also use a lime-sulfur spray during this cool season.
  • Prune roses during the last two weeks of February.
  • Divide miniature roses with woody centers by splitting the plant into several sections and replanting. Discard woody growth.
  • Plant bareroot roses as soon as possible after you receive them. Soak the plants in water for 12 to 24 hours before planting to rehydrate the roots. In coastal S.C., we generally plant roses so the graft bud union is 2 inches above ground level. After planting, mound up well over the bud union with soil, water well, and protect canes from drying winds until new growth begins.
  • Remove all dead and diseased leaves from the bushes and from the ground.
  • Take down climbing roses and remove old canes. Tie up and train good canes to grow horizontally. Do not prune once-bloomers until after their first bloom.
  • Visit local garden centers to see what roses are available.
  • Send off soil samples for testing if this was not done in the fall. Roses grow best at a pH of about 6.5


March – April

This is probably the busiest time of the year for the rosarian. We are finishing up our spring pruning, beginning our spray program, adding organics to the soil and giving the roses their first spring feeding. You may still plant new rose bushes, especially container-grown roses.

  • Begin your spray program two weeks after you finish pruning. Now is the time to spray everything – the pruned bushes and the ground around them with a fungicide-insecticide of your choice.
  • From March through October, continue a bi-weekly fungicide spray schedule. The key to healthy rose bushes and beautiful blooms is consistency in your spray program. Be sure to rotate fungicides to prevent resistance to the chemicals used.
  • Do not apply pesticides unless you see a problem. Adding pesticides to your spray solution indiscriminately will kill beneficial insects and increase your chance for a spider mite infestation. If you spot a bug problem, spray the problem area with the appropriate chemical.
  • Check your garden for aphids as soon as new growth emerges. Aphids appear as soon as the weather warms and they feed on new growth and flower buds. Blast the critters off with a strong spray of water or mist the tops of plants with insecticide to keep foliage clean.
  • Roses love to be fed regularly. Roses need lots of food for foliage and bloom. High rainfall and frequent waterings tend to leach fertilizer out of our sandy coastal soil. Many rosarians feed their roses every other week.
  • Add organics and work them into the soil. Take your choice of the following: mushroom compost, composted manures, alfalfa meal or pellets, cottonseed meal, blood meal, fish meal, or a mixture of the above. Pre-mixed organics are available in garden centers and specialized vendors.
  • Keep your roses well watered. Provide adequate water throughout this rapid growing period. Water makes it all work – the organics, the food, the microbes. Roses grown in our sandy soils need at least one to two inches of water each week.
  • Mulch your roses with pine straw, pine bark or other materials. Pile on the mulch at least 3 to 4 inches thick, leaving the bud union and grafts exposed to the sunshine.
  • Be on the lookout for spider mites. They arrive when the weather warms. Look for telltale yellowing of lower leaves. Blasting them of the undersides of leaves with a water wand works. This must be repeated in 3-4 days to get newly hatching mites. Or a miticide such as Avid may be used.
  • Watch weather reports and respond to freeze warnings (if they come) by piling on mulch, organics or soil to protect the bud union from late spring freezes.


May – June

The first blush of blooms in late April and early May makes us rejoice in the beauty of our hobby. The rose shows generate excitement and pride, celebrations with family and friends abound.

  • Your first roses were glorious. To keep them beautiful all season, May and June are times to continue regular care. Water roses deeply several times a week during times of little rainfall.
  • Apply organics after the first flush of bloom. Apply two to three cups per bush, or one cup per mini.
  • Continue your spray program for disease and pest control.
  • Deadhead faded blooms regularly to promote more flowers.


July – August

Summertime gardening in the Lowcountry is not easy. We have to ease ourselves and our roses through the heat and humidity while we prepare for the glorious fall season just ahead.

Your roses will continue to bloom happily in the garden, even though their flowers are smaller and less full than in cool weather.

  • Frequent watering during hot, dry weather is essential for healthy roses. Roses need to be watered daily when temperatures are in the 90s. Roses grown in pots may need more frequent watering.
  • Spraying on a routine basis is essential for preventing blackspot and fungus diseases.
  • Fertilize with light, but frequent feedings.
  • Apply organics for the final time in August at the rate of 2-3 cups per bush.
  • Deadhead your roses to keep them blooming.
  • Keep an eye out for spider mites. They thrive in hot weather and will quickly defoliate rose bushes unless you take immediate corrective actions.
  • Cut your roses back in late August – early September to produce big, beautiful fall blooms – for yourself and for taking to the fall rose shows.
  • Trim away stems and branches growing toward the center of the bush to improve air circulation and reduce the potential for spider mites to gain a foothold in your garden.
  • If you are planning to exhibit in fall shows, you will need to stagger pruning long canes over a couple of weeks, considering recycling times for the various varieties:
  • Slow Recycling Varieties: 55 to 60 days for heavily petalled varieties such as Uncle Joe, New Zealand and Touch of Class.
  • Medium Slow Varieties: 50 to 54 days for varieties such as Crystalline, Elizabeth Taylor, Peace, and Olympiad.
  • Average Varieties: 45 to 49 days for varieties such as Color Magic, Double Delight, Gold Medal, Nicole, French Lace and some heavily petalled miniatures.
  • Fast Varieties: 40 to 44 days for varieties such as Altissimo, First Prize, Fragrant Cloud, and large minis such as Giggles, Tiffany Lynn and Miss Flippins.
  • Very Fast Varieties: 35 to 39 days for singles such as Dainty Bess, Playboy, Playgirl and single minis.


September – October

Warm, sunny days and cool nights make our roses blooms larger and more brilliantly colored.

  • Water deeply, often and well. If you plan to exhibit or showcase your blooms in other ways, water daily as this will increase the substance of your blooms.
  • Fertilize with water-soluble fertilizers until the end of September. Some use a bloom booster formula (one with a high middle number) to get larger blooms of intense color. Discontinue fertilizers from October through mid-March.
  • Continue your spray program to keep leaves free of blackspot and mildew.
  • Continue to cut roses for bouquets through the end of October. Some growers prefer to let rose hips form by removing only the petals of spent roses. This signals the plants that the dormant season is coming. The plants sense this as the days become cooler and shorter.
  • Start thinking about new roses for the coming year and prepare your Christmas wish list. Send for catalogs and order your roses now to get the best selection.


November – December

We give thanks for our rewarding hobby and the joy it has given us.

  • Resist the temptation to prune the roses! Novice growers often make this mistake. Do not prune now. Do not deadhead, and do not feed your roses. Let nature take its course, which will lead into dormancy. Pruning in the Lowcountry should be done toward the end of winter.
  • Continue to water your roses. Roses need water throughout the year. They will survive the winter better if properly hydrated. Stick your finger down into the soil about 5 inches. If it is dry, it’s time to water.
  • Continue to spray once a month for black spot. Take care of these trouble spots when you see them.
  • Practice good sanitation in the garden. Pick off diseased leaves and rake up fallen leaves in the rose beds and destroy. Your beds will look neater and disease-laden spores will not be there to multiply and resurface next year.
  • Prepare new rose holes or rose beds now. Let the holes mellow over winter and be ready to receive new plants next year.
  • Roses can be successfully transplanted from one location to another while dormant. Wait until we have had several killing frosts to move your roses – probably late December or early January.
  • It is a perfect time to winter protect delicate varieties. Pile mulch and leaves around the crowns of roses such as St. Patrick, Color Magic, Oklahoma and Signature, which are more tender than most HTs.